Monday, September 21, 2009

My Story Bible: 66 Favorite Stories

Godfrey, Jan. 2009. My Story Bible: 66 Favorite Stories. Illustrated by Paola Bertolini Grudina. Tyndale. (You can read the first four stories online.)

My Story Bible: 66 Favorite Stories is a good introduction to Bible stories and characters for young readers. It's simple, but not too simple. I think it is written at a level that preschoolers and early-school age children can enjoy and appreciate. As a read aloud that is. I think the text tries to engage young listeners. And I think it succeeds for the most part. It's rhythmic and repetitive where it needs to be. Yet this wordplay isn't too distracting from the story itself.

The selection. I liked that it was a nice blend of Old Testament and New Testament. I think it is easy for books to drift one way or another. To focus all on the early stories--for example. Genesis is such a rich book for stories. And to neglect the later stories of prophets. And when it comes to the New Testament, sometimes it becomes all about the gospels and nothing else. It was nice to see a fuller range with this collection. True, the book doesn't offer every story I'd like to see retold for children. But no children's story bible ever could. It would be impossible to tell them all. To simplify them all. Some stories just don't translate down into the simplest, most basic forms. Some concepts are just too big for little minds to grasp. So you have to prioritize. And you have to always, always keep your audience in mind. Parents familiar with their bibles may see that not all the details are there for each story. Some things have been simplified and shortened. (For example, with Moses and Pharaoh, we don't get the full picture. We don't see the plagues coming one by one by one with rejections and drama in between. We get an abbreviated account of the king's stubbornness.) But again, I think it was a choice to make this one work for the youngest listeners.

Here's an excerpt from one of my favorite stories "The Sound of Music."
Three friends were taken as prisoners to a place called Babylon, far away from home. They worshiped the one true God, but the king worshiped pretend gods.
One day the king told everyone to bow down and worship a golden statue.
"I won't," said Shadrach.
"I won't," said his friend Meshach.
"I won't," said his friend Abednego.
"There will be trouble if you don't!" said a messenger of the king.
"As soon as you hear music and instruments, you'll bow down to that golden statue, or they'll be trouble--you wait and see! If you don't bow down and worship it, you'll be thrown into a fiery furnace!" (54)
A little later on we read, "So they were thrown into the blazing, fiery furnace. It was very, very, very hot. But they did not die. They did not get burned. They didn't even smell smoky!" (54)

And here's how the collection handles the Ten Commandments (in part) and the Lord's Prayer (in full) respectively.

"The seventh day of the week is special," said God. "It's a rest day, a family day, a happy day, a holy day. It's a day when everyone can worship me together. Even the animals can have a rest!"
"Treat your moms and dads well," said God. "Be polite and loving and respectful and kind and obedient to them."...
"And don't tell lies or say mean things about other people."
"Don't look at the things other people have and want them so much that you can't think about anything else." (29)

"Our father in heaven, your name is great and holy.
We want to do what is right so that your love will spread all over the world.
Please give everyone enough to eat each day, and help us to be kind to each other always.
Keep us safe from harm and from doing wrong things.
For you are true and wonderful and glorious and your Kingdom will last forever and ever. Amen." (72-73)

So for the most part, I loved the way these stories were told. As I mentioned earlier, I thought they were engaging and kid-friendly.

The illustrations. As I've said dozens of times, I'm not *good* at judging illustrations. I only know what I like, what I love, and what I hate. I liked these illustrations. I found them refreshing compared to say the illustrations in the Read and Share Bible. (I haven't *read* that one cover to cover. So I'm not saying anything about the text. Just the illustrations.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

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